The Times has identified the Jurgen Klinsman/Greg Louganis art of diving as a threat to football’s credibilty. The paper’s own Martin Samuel, however, submits that such a campaign “is like becoming more outraged with Abu Hamza™s welfare claims than the content of his speeches, to paint it as the root of all sporting evil misses the point by a hundred miles.”
To elevate simulation above all forms of cheating ” particularly those that throw in brutality and the threat of serious injury as part of the package ” gives it greater credence than is deserved.
Witness the quick capsule review of Arsenal™s match against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, published in Monday™s Times and written as if diving were the sole deadly sin. œUgly, like a Peter Kay belly-flop. Players from both sides went to ground too easily.
Notice anything missing? For two potentially leg-breaking tackles, see halfway down page six, dismissed in half a sentence, the culprits not even named or shamed.
Perception is key here and probably the reason that some forms of cheating anger more than others. Diving is regarded as particularly objectionable because it involves a calculated deception and a cold pact with dishonesty. Also, it is unmanly. We like our sportsmen to stand tall, to test the limits of endurance, to take a punch and come back for more. To see one rolling around on the ground like a three-year-old denied the cereal with the good toy is an affront to that image.
By contrast, the breakneck, break-leg tackler is perceived as part of this country™s work-hard, play-hard tradition. Only in England does a crunching challenge, fair or foul, get a previously subdued crowd animated in the manner of a swashbuckling forward move in the Nou Camp. High on the list of England™s World Cup heroes? Nobby Stiles (above), a negative midfield enforcer. As for Ron œChopper Harris and Norman œBites Your Legs Hunter, they are still recalled affectionately as loveable rogues but not by many who played against them. There is a long history of unchecked brutality in English football.